The New England Patriots bolstered their secondary on Tuesday, signing free agent safety Jabrill Peppers to a reported one-year contract. A former first-round draft pick by the Cleveland Browns, who spent the last three seasons with the New York Giants, Peppers offers an intriguing skillset but he does not come without questions.
The biggest of which is his medical status: the 26-year-old tore his ACL last October, and is still recovering from the injury. While more significant than most others, the ailment still is only one of many on Peppers’ career résumé.
Let’s therefore take a look at his injury history to find out what it means for the Patriots.
2013 (Paramus Catholic): Peppers suffered an apparent hip injury in September of his final high school season at Paramus Catholic in Paramus, NJ. However, the issue did not force him to miss any significant time.
2014 (Michigan): Peppers was hampered by injuries in his first season at the University of Michigan. The first was an ankle injury he suffered in August, the second another leg issue that eventually forced the Wolverines to redshirt him.
As a result of his two injuries, Peppers missed six of Michigan’s first nine games and parts of two others. He was shut down for the rest of the season in early November.
2015 (Michigan): A hand injury had bothered Peppers for much of the later parts of Michigan’s 2015 season, but it did not force him to miss any significant playing time — until the season finale versus Florida. Peppers did dress for the team’s 41-7 Citrus Bowl win, but he did not play a single snap.
2016 (Michigan): What would have been Peppers’ final college game instead ended with him sidelined. One day before the Orange Bowl versus Florida State, he suffered a hamstring injury in practice and was forced to sit out the contest. With the unanimous first-team All-American out, Michigan lost 33-32.
2017 (Browns): Peppers’ first season in the NFL saw him miss two games in mid-October because of a toe injury. The issue appeared earlier during the season, and was described as “lingering” by head coach Hue Jackson.
Ahead of a late-November game versus the Cincinnati Bengals, Peppers was forced to sit out practice due to an ankle ailment. He ended up playing a combined 67 snaps on defense and special teams.
In early December, Peppers suffered a knee injury versus the Los Angeles Chargers. The ailment, which occurred late in the 19-10 loss, also kept him out of the following week’s game against Green Bay.
2018 (Browns): Peppers hurt his groin during offseason workouts and was unable to participate in the early portions of his second NFL training camp. He was a no-show for the first four practices because of the issue.
A late-September game versus the Jets saw Peppers get taken to the locker room because of a shoulder issue. He was listed as questionable to return, and indeed did reenter the contest.
Later that same season, following a mid-December win over Denver, Peppers experienced stiffness in his neck. He received some time off in practice and was listed as questionable to play in that week’s game against Cincinnati, but did take the field and not show any significant signs of being impacted by the issue.
2019 (Giants): Peppers’ first season with the Giants started against the Dallas Cowboys, and with a game that saw him briefly exit due to a cramp. He did return and ended up playing 67 of 68 defensive snaps.
The second game against the Cowboys that year saw Peppers get shaken up again. He remained in the game, but was later hurt a second time. He jogged off the field under his own power, missed one play and returned. No injury was announced.
Peppers’ 2019 campaign came to an end in Week 11 versus the Chicago Bears. The first-year Giant suffered a back injury — a transverse process fracture — that forced him to sit out the remaining five games of the season.
2020 (Giants): Peppers’ second season in New York began with him fully participating in training camp, despite the season-ending injury suffered a few months prior. In late August, however, he was forced to leave one session with the Giants’ training staff. He was back the next day.
Peppers was also forced to miss time after injuring his ankle on a field goal rush versus the San Francisco 49ers in late September. He remained on the ground in pain, but eventually sat out only one game.
In mid-October versus Washington, Peppers remained on the ground after one play. He jogged back to the sideline under his own power, and ended up missing just one defensive snap that day. No injury was announced by the Giants.
The rematch in Washington four weeks later also saw Peppers get shaken up. Again, no injury was announced. He ended up seeing the field for all 54 defensive snaps that day.
2021 (Giants): Peppers hurt his hamstring in the first half of the Giants’ mid-October game versus New Orleans. The issue forced him to sit out the following game.
Two weeks later, he suffered a season-ending knee injury. Peppers ruptured the ACL in his right knee on a 6-yard punt return in the third quarter, and also suffered a high ankle sprain in the process. He later underwent surgery on his knee to end his tenure with the Giants on the sidelines.
What it means for the Patriots
Fairly or not, Peppers arrives in New England with the “injury prone” label attached to his name. But while his injury history is a significant one, just two of the issues were of the season-ending variety. His back injury in 2019 and the torn ACL suffered last October were the only ailments forcing him to be shut down for the remainder of the year.
So, what does all of that mean from the Patriots’ point of view? Not necessarily a lot. The team’s medical staff obviously saw no red flags, while Peppers himself is expected ready to return to the field no later than training camp.
He has missed some time in the past, yes, but he is also playing a physical position and a few bumps and bruises are to be expected. The Patriots obviously know all of this, which is why they apparently felt comfortable signing Peppers to a one-year contract — a deal that could work out well for both sides.
While New England added another versatile chess piece to its defensive backfield, Peppers joins a club with a deep safety rotation. He will probably not be asked to play close to 100 percent of defensive snaps on a week-to-week basis, which in turn might also contribute to him staying healthy.